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Inclusive learning technologies can improve access to education

When COVID19 mandated the use of technology in classrooms across the globe it exposed the digital divide. Access remained as large a question mark as ever. But there is hope. Inclusive learning technologies designed for children with specific needs may play a crucial role in improving access.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   09-04-2021

BrainGain Magazine
Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

Last year, UNESCO reported that only 61 percent of children with disabilities aged between five and 19 attended an educational institution in India. This is against the overall 71 percent of all children in the country. Further, the number of children enrolled in school dropped significantly with each successive year of schooling. While acknowledging the significant progress India had made in terms of establishing a legal framework and range of programs to enhance enrolment, the UN agency stressed the need for further measures to make education more inclusive.

I believe new technology presents us with a way forward.

Inclusive learning technologies can be described as technologies that allow students to bypass or compensate for the challenge they face. These are designed to support their specific learning needs.

Voice technology, for example, is helpful to students with learning disabilities, including those who find it difficult to read and write. Text-to-speech technology provides students access to content by reading it out to them. Additionally, text-to-speech software allows students to identify errors made while writing. Parallelly, voice technology can also be used to help students create text through dictation.

Such technologies also benefit the blind or those with low vision. Screen readers powered by voice tech helps students access content more easily. Also, refreshable braille displays process the information on computers and electronically raise or lower different combinations of pins in braille cells as the cursor moves along the screen.

Technology can also assist deaf students or those with hearing loss. Visual material accompanied by closed captions eases learning by obviating the need for listening to the instructor. Within the classroom, teachers can also use remote microphones and FM transmitters to help learners.

Thanks to other advances in technology, learning is no longer confined to classroom settings. Remote learning is gaining popularity, and the rise in enrollment rates reported by EdTech startups in the wake of COVID-19 bears testimony to this. Students are being able to access quality education through web apps and video conferencing. Accessing courses online offers students with disabilities the opportunity to learn more efficiently at a pace that suits them.

There is an urgent need to bridge the gap in access to education. Technology is a powerful enabler. With increasing technological adoption, undoubtedly, the future of education will be more inclusive.
 

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